Meeting the demands of responsible citizens of the world

I recently came across a report from Nielsen, a global market research and measurement firm, entitled, The Sustainability Imperative. The opening lines of the piece particularly resonated with me and are truly relatable to coffee and tea — two industries highly focused on origin and the people cultivating the products. The piece noted:

It’s hard to ignore the siren call to protect the planet. Or to remain unmoved by those facing increasingly poor living conditions across the globe. As a result, many consumers have adopted more sustainable behaviors. Others are working for or supporting organizations dedicated to social and environmental change.

Consumers are trying to be responsible citizens of the world, and they expect the same from corporations. So, when it comes to purchasing, they are doing their homework. Checking labels before buying. Looking at web sites for information on business and manufacturing practices. Paying attention to public opinion on specific brands in the news or on social media.”

The report further noted that among the 66% of global respondents willing to pay more, over 50% of them are influenced by key sustainability factors, such as a product being made from fresh, natural and/or organic ingredients (69%), a company being environmentally friendly (58%), and company being known for its commitment to social value (56%). Sales and coupons didn’t even make the top five. For this group, personal values are more important than personal benefits, such as cost or convenience.

This report was written in October 2015, more than three years ago when the term sustainability was seemingly tossed around as a buzzword or a trend, and we had barely heard the term “Gen Z” — and they were far from an “influencing demographic.” Flash forward to 2019 (we can even say 2018 as this year is still “so new”), and while people in general are increasingly concerned about the environment, millennials (aged 22-37) and Gen Z (under 21) are the driving forces behind this movement. Nielsen further revealed that three out of four millennials and 72% of Gen Z polled would pay more for a product with sustainable packaging.

To that end, businesses have been adopting environmentally-friendly strategies when they design products, product packaging, and when marketing their business. Coffee and tea companies not yet employing any of these strategies should take note as they are missing the proverbial boat (along with potential new customers and sales).

GlobalData, a data and analytics company, took sustainable packaging further by highlighting “combatting packaging waste” as one of 2018’s five defining beverage trends. In announcing the beverage trends, GlobalData said, “The strength of consumer demand for sustainable packaging solutions is driven by industry collaboration and company innovation.”

Evidencing this commitment to combatting packaging waste, GlobalData noted that over 106 brands signed up to the UK’s ‘Plastic Pact’ (part of an international initiative, the Plastics Pact) while PepsiCo joined Nestlé, Danone and Origin Materials in the NaturALL Bottle Alliance, a research consortium formed in 2017 by Danone, Nestlé Waters, and bio-based materials development company Origin Materials to accelerate the development of innovative packaging solutions made with 100% sustainable and renewable resources.

In a recent blog post entitled, 11 Eye-Catching Packaging Design Trends for 2019, Amanda Bowman of Crowdspring, a graphic, logo, website and product design company, wrote that increasing numbers of consumers seek out companies who make it clear they care. Whether this is through sustainable packaging or clearly stated causes and charities doesn’t matter. “Wearing your heart on your proverbial sleeve (or in this case, packaging) is ultimately good for everyone, and good for business,” she wrote. “Be sure you emphasize your company name and logo since you want to be absolutely sure that consumers connect your brand to the cause. It’s a good way to put your brand identity – and key messaging – front and center.”

Circling back to the millennial and Gen Z influence, Bowman stressed that this is a trend (I prefer the term movement or social responsibility) bound to grow as younger, more socially-aware consumers start flexing their immense buying power.

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